Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Working Groups/Product & Technology/Scoping/Developer Ecosystem

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What is your area of inquiry?[edit]

The developer engagement ecosystem around Wikimedia projects and its place in the broader open source movement -- supporting developers in contributing to Wikimedia products and technology (e.g., MediaWiki, Wikibase, apps/tools/bots/gadgets supporting Wikimedia projects).

What is the current situation?[edit]

The WMF develops most of the software for Wikimedia projects. There are many smaller projects funded by chapters and individual grants, or supported through volunteer contributions. Volunteers are engaged in various product development processes such as user research, feature requests, discussion, and analysis, but there isn’t a unified process that all projects or teams follow to attract developers to contribute to Wikimedia. Efforts to establish a standard product development and stakeholder engagement process have been unsuccessful so far.

Supporting the ecosystem is largely limited to operating the various services used for development (version control system, issue tracker, documentation wikis, CI, PaaS/IaaS, monitoring etc.), and hosting tech and outreach events. Documentation, tech support and code review is happening on an ad hoc basis. There is little to no volunteer onboarding, tracking or mentoring. In theory there is some open governance (most prominently, via the TechCom RfC process) but involvement is high-effort and few non-staff-members have the capacity; and the border between self-governance and WMF governance is blurry. The relationship between the overlapping but distinct ecosystems of Wikimedia and MediaWiki remains unclear.

The developer community seems stable but is not growing and is not diverse; there are no strong local communities. There is a widespread sense that compared to its real-world significance and utility, the ecosystem attracts and retains few contributors. Economically, the ecosystem is reliant almost entirely on the WMF, despite MediaWiki being reasonably successful in some commercial use-cases. There is little interaction or integration with the wider open source ecosystem, upstream and downstream.

Why this scope?[edit]

  • To become part of the infrastructure for free knowledge, we must integrate seamlessly into the wider technological ecosystem around it, and be easy to collaborate with.
  • To pursue knowledge equity, our product and technology contribution processes must be welcoming and open to attract a diverse set of contributors, engage and empower them to become active participants in it.
  • Technology is a power multiplier. To achieve the ambitious goals our movement has set, we must invest in the capacity building of groups that are both supporting and part of the developer ecosystem to grow our efforts.

What are the key questions within the scope of the Working Group?[edit]

  • How can we better attract, support and retain technical contributors?
    • In which areas, topics or projects should we prioritize engaging future Wikimedia developers?
    • How can we become better at building and supporting local developer communities?
  • How can we better integrate with the wider technical ecosystem?
    • How can we better support and benefit from the third-party MediaWiki community?
    • How do we best collaborate with external open source organizations?

What are the questions the Working Group needs to ask from the wider community?[edit]

  • How can we better support contributors in doing technical work (such as development of MediaWiki and other Wikimedia software, operating tools or bots, bug reporting, performing tech support or tech ambassador roles)?

What are the areas where you see outside expertise is needed?[edit]

Expertise on other FLOSS organizations / communities would be helpful. (What are the key metrics for the health of the developer ecosystem? How do we compare with other volunteer or FLOSS organizations in terms of supporting and benefiting from volunteers and the third-party ecosystem? Are there role models we could learn from?)

Appendix[edit]